Sunday, 23 August 2015

How To... Lengthen Your Dresses

Hi Everyone, 

Hope you've had a good weekend. A few weeks ago I posted about how I recently lengthened a couple of dresses for a friend of mine (read about it here), it was an easy and pretty quick alteration so as promised here is my little 'How to' guide for anyone looking to lengthen any dresses or skirts by adding a band of fabric at the hem.

I've combined hand drawn doodles and home "Photoshop" for this tutorial, I'm looking to invest in Adobe Illustrator for my new laptop which would have been my first choice for something like this. But as I'm still counting the pennies to get my hands on that I hope the doodles do the trick!
Failing that, hopefully next time I'll have the sense to photograph the process as I work!

Here we go!

You will need:

Tape Measure
Rubber (just incase!)
Scissors (Paper & Fabric)
Fabric for the band (quantity depends on the length your are adding on/size of your dress hem)
Thread (to match your fabric)
Iron/Ironing Board


Sewing Machine

The Technique

1. Measure how much length you want to add on to the garment. If you're altering someone else's clothes then great! They can put the dress/skirt on and you can measure easily. If it's for yourself then you may need a lovely assistant or mirror to help you measure properly. Take note of how much length you are adding on (Measurement A)

2. Measure the circumference of your hem. I like to make my hem band out of 2 pieces that match at the side seams - so for this I would take note of the front hem & back hem measurements. (Measurement B)

3. Draw up a pattern piece for your hem band. Draw a rectangle with Width of Front/Back Hem x Length to be added on. Don't forget to add your seam allowances all the way around. I use a 1cm seam allowance as standard. You should end up with a rectangle like this.

4. Put the pattern piece onto your fabric making sure you have the fabric with right sides (RS) together and the pattern piece on the right grain line. Pin into place & cut out.

5. Now you'll have two rectangular pieces. Overlock the two short sides & one long one (this long side will become your new hem).

6. With RS of the fabric together, sew the rectangles together down the short sides & then press the seams open. Now you have one long band to sew onto your dress.

I find it easiest to work with the least amount of fabric at a time when I am sewing. So this is the perfect time to sew the hem of the band so you don't have to battle with the whole dress under the machine once it's all sewn together.

7. Press the overlocked edge up on the inside approx 3mm more than the width of the overlock stitching then machine with a straight stitch into place. This is what we called a 'Pinstitch Hem' at my last workplace, it's very easy to do and works well on most garments. Press your stitching to give a nice crisp edge.

8. Pin the band to the bottom of the dress (RS to RS) making sure you match up any seams. Then sew into place.

9. Remove pins & press the seam open first. Then press the seam allowances together and down towards the hem before overlocking together. Be careful here to only overlock the seam allowances together and not catch any other part of the dress into the stitching. And yeah, I've done it before, and it's awful! 

10. Give the overlocked seam another press to make sure it's sitting downward towards the hem. Then on the RS of the hem band sew a line of stitching just below the seam. (Topstiching). This will hold the seam allowances in place & is something I like to do as I think it gives a crisper neater finish.

11. Check for any left over pins, trim any long threads and give your garment a final press

And... Ta Dahh!

There you have your lovely lengthened dresses!

Depending how much length you need adding onto the dress/skirt, you can always use a wide ribbon instead of fabric. And you could always add ribbon or fabric on to the hem on any clothing you already have to give it a bit of a revamp! I've also used this technique on a playsuit where the shorts were definitely on the skimpy side!

So that's my first 'How to' done, what did you think? I'm thinking of writing up other 'How to's  or other sewing tips I come across. Any comments or thoughts let me know, this blog is a bit of a learning process for me to as I document my creative ventures.

If you try this yourself let me know how it went or if you have a better technique yourself.

Happy Sewing!

Em x